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Emil LaRocque, Belcourt, N.D., column: Nickname prompts falloff in Indian enrollment

By Emil LaRocque BELCOURT, N.D. -- I am so glad that the State Board of Higher Education has seen fit to give the go ahead to retire the Fighting Sioux name and logo. Such a name and logo has not been good for any student especially American Indi...

By Emil LaRocque

BELCOURT, N.D. -- I am so glad that the State Board of Higher Education has seen fit to give the go ahead to retire the Fighting Sioux name and logo. Such a name and logo has not been good for any student especially American Indian students.

The name and logo has had a negative effect on all Indian students. As American Indian people, we hurt over such a name and have taken and seen much abuse over the years because of it.

I have worked in tribal higher education since 1979; most of those years were spent as the tribal scholarship director for the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians. The average number of students we have funded at UND throughout the years on an annual basis has been 130-plus. For academic year 2009/2010, we funded 62 students.

I attribute this 60 percent drop for the most part to the many hurtful spinoffs of the Fighting Sioux name and logo -- spinoffs such as derogatory name calling of Indian students, pictures of bestiality between Indian men and buffalo, and intoxicated and painted non-Indian fans -- chanting they know not about what -- all in the name of fun and games and at the expense of Indian people, students and their children.

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Indian people are not mascots. We no longer should be treated as such.

The concern by everyone should be turned to other issues -- issues such as why North Dakota taxpayers are paying for the higher education of hundreds of foreign students at various universities around the state.

Why is our state Legislature allowing this? What long-term benefits are there for North Dakota to pay for the education of foreign students who will not stay in North Dakota and who are not even citizens of this country?

Would there not be more benefits for North Dakota to educate the American Indian students of North Dakota vs. trying to make mascots of them? Would North Dakota not benefit more if we chose to fund American Indian students at tribal colleges?

Why does the North Dakota University System see fit to import diversity?

In the 2009-2010 academic year, the North Dakota University System spent $25 million in tuition waivers. Much of that money dollars went toward the education of foreign students, not American Indian students.

Supporters of the name and logo need to get their priorities straight. They need to do what is good for North Dakota and what is good for our American Indian Students.

If these supporters are having a hard time getting past the nickname's retirement, there is counseling available, I am sure. In addition, the supporters should keep in mind what the American Indians of North Dakota have had to live with and get past for generations. This will give those supporters strength and encouragement to work for the betterment of everyone.

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LaRocque is tribal scholarship director for the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians.

Related Topics: UNIVERSITY OF NORTH DAKOTA
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